When the Washington Redskins decided to take their entire slate of training camp practices on the road prior to the 2013 season, they did so wanting to make sure it would be beneficial to both the team and its fans.
So after a first successful year of training camp at the brand new Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center last season, the Redskins returned July 23 with hopes of making their 2014 Roadtrip to Richmond even better.
Players, coaches and the Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder spent extended time signing autographs and taking pictures with fans after Fan Appreciation Day practice on Saturday, August 2, 2014.
Redskins President and general manager Bruce Allen said not only was the team's second year of training camp in Richmond, Va., great for the fans – with an average of about 11,000 per day coming out for more than two weeks' worth of open practices – but the team's roster and coaching staff, as a whole, broke camp on Tuesday a much tighter-knit unit overall.
Allen credited first-year head coach Jay Gruden with establishing a training camp culture in which his players could grow and learn together.
"I think Jay did an excellent job – him and his staff – of building that camaraderie," Allen told reporters after Tuesday's final training camp practice. "I don't think there's any doubt that we got better at camp. The key is to make sure we keep getting better when we get back up to Redskins Park."
Allen was just as excited about the impact his team made on the Richmond community during this year's training camp.
He said, overall, the Redskins and its Charitable Foundation impacted the lives of 20,000 children at training camp this year, many of whom were invited by the players onto the field after practices for daily "helmet walks."
The chance to walk and talk with a professional football player, Allen hopes, has nothing but a positive impact on those children.
"I have to thank all the parents who brought the young, young kids to practice," Allen said. "Those are the people that I know we affected, and hopefully they will be future employees of our team."
This year's Redskins training camp also placed a heavy emphasis on honoring those in the military, as the creation of the team's new Redskins Salute military club led to more than 1,000 total servicemen and women visiting practice and being treated to VIP experiences.
"That was fantastic," Allen said.
The Redskins also drew large crowds Aug. 4-6, when they invited Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots to Richmond for three days of joint practices prior to the teams' preseason opener Aug. 7 at FedExField.
"That work was invaluable for us from an evaluation standpoint," Allen said of the joint practices. "I think the way we managed the crowds was a lesson that we learned from last year. It was great for the fans and the players."
Allen said those in the organization will soon sit down to go over the strengths and weaknesses of this year's training camp in order to make next year's version even better for the fans and the team.
Included in those discussions will be the location of additional vendors, the possibility of more joint practices and the effectiveness of using ticket lotteries for larger crowds.
"First of all, whoever brought the weather – now the mayor took credit and the governor took credit for the weather the last two years – the weather was fantastic," Allen said with a laugh. "We're going to have a meeting like we did last year, go through all the department heads, try to figure out how we can try and do it better for the team and for the fans."
Both Allen and Gruden made sure to thank everybody involved for another successful year of training camp in Richmond.
"Everything was first-class," Gruden said. "The workers were great. The fans were excellent. We had no issues whatsoever. Hopefully they enjoyed themselves when they came here.
"Overall from a coaching standpoint – I said it before and I'll say it again – what you want is a place that's conducive for learning, a place where they can get better, get their needed treatment, and everything is provided here in a first-class fashion."